Thursday, 29 January 2015

Sharing Your Digital Job Board With Your Staff

The ability to securely share is perhaps one of the most powerful aspects of Google Sheets
One of the most obvious ways to present your digital job board to your staff is to project it from your office computer to a TV screen in the lunch room. Some people have hardwired the TV to their desktop and others have beamed it over using devices like a Chromecast or Apple Tv.

Share with anyone you want and restrict what they can and cannot do
The real beauty of using Google Sheets is that you can share it with whomever you want. Not only can you share it, you can also set the permissions to restrict what others can do. You can allow individual users or anyone with a link like I have with my job board. You can set the permissions to can view", "can comment", and "can edit". You can also make individuals "owners" of the sheet so that they can in turn share it with others.

view only job board for my staff
With my digital job board I have shared it with my staff, and with the world through my blog. I am the only person that can edit it but I could easily allow other staff to be able to edit it if needed. This would be great if you had assistants responsible for updating the job board. For my staff, I don't want them to be able to edit the sheet. It's a view only job board for them. You could also share it with the pro shop staff so that they can see what is happening in real time on the course. Google Sheets makes it very easy and secure to do this.

Another beauty with sharing your job board is that you employees can access it from anywhere (if you wish to allow them). That way they can check the board from their phones or home computers. This makes the job board not just a physical object in your shop, it's a virtual job board that is capable of keeping your staff organized wherever they are.

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Digital Job Board, Try Before You Buy

The Digital Job board has really been a popular topic with superintendents. I have helped dozens of supers sort their digital job boards out since writing my first post about them in December. For many the cost of setting them up (~$500) is still too much of a risk especially if you don't fully understand it or worry that it won't work for you.

If you are interested in testing running a job board but don't want to commit you can always use my job board as described in my post but instead of displaying the info on a tv in the lunch room, just use it as a guide to update your chalk or white board in the room. You can share the board with your assistants and they can also use it to update the old fashioned, yet reliable, job board you have always used.
The Job Board viewed on my phone can be used to update the current physical job board
If it turns out that this free system works for your needs you can then upgrade to the digital display to make it complete. The only commitment is a bit of time setting the job board up and keeping the planner part updated.

Saturday, 10 January 2015

Making Digital Technology Work For You on the Golf Course

Digital technology is slowly creeping into a golf course maintenance operation near you whether you like it or not.  As the younger more tech-savvy generation move up the ranks they bring with them new ways to use the digital technology to make their operations better. Being one of the early adopters, I have noticed a lot of good examples and a lot of bad examples of how superintendents have implemented these systems on the golf course. I want to share with you some of the lessons and tricks I have learned to make a few of the most common uses of digital planning and record keeping actually improve your operation.

Digital Job Board

The digital job board is a trend that has recently taken off with golf course maintenance operations. At first is was just the high end clubs that were doing this but the low budget operations quickly caught on the benefits that a digital job board can offer. At first they might seem excessive for small mom and pop operations but they are in fact even more essential for today's small golf course operations. Small operations don't have the budget for many managers to direct staff and keep everyone organized. With a properly designed job board the superintendent can manage the operations as if he has 2 assistants for the one-time cost of $500 assuming you already have a smart phone. Some might see the digital job board as just a way to spend more money but this just isn't true if the job board is created and used properly.

Google Sheets is a versatile medium for a digital job board
Unfortunately most of the digital job boards I have seen are not much better than their white board alternatives. Basically they only offer a fancy way of presenting the data and help your messages be more clearly presented. They don't actually save you, as a supervisor, any work. You still have to keep them updated and for the most part must be physically present in the shop to make changes. This is just as much work as writing on a chalk board but costs a lot more!

When creating your digital job board consider the following:

  • Clear presentation with not too much information. If necessary put the tasks on 2 pages and rotate through them with a tool such as Revolver for chrome. Add in the weather pages to the rotation to give you staff even more information!
  • Ability to plan ahead. This will allow you to better schedule tasks that need to be done and add jobs directly to the job board instead of other organizational documents. I have talked about my job board in a recent blog post. This also saves time from having to copy data from other notes. Add it direct to the job board!
  • Ability to update on your mobile device. An online or cloud based spreadsheet program will make this easy. I use Google Sheets. This makes changes possible while out on the golf course or on your days off while at home or on holiday!
  • Make it accessible to your staff. I only have one computer in my operation so my job board and computer are on the work bench so everyone can access it to see what needs to be done.

So when planning your job board for 2015 remember to make it work for you! There's no point in making one if it doesn't make your job easier! Check out my board and let me know if I can help you customize it to suit your operation.

Record Keeping

Private web page to make access
to my forms easy for me and my staff
Other ways that superintendents are using digital tools to save time is by taking their records off paper and into spreadsheets. Many are creating online forms that automatically update the spreadsheet with data. Some examples of these can be equipment use records, spray records, fertilizer records, disease monitoring and even weather reports. One mistake I see a lot of people making is that they still make it too hard to fill our the form. In order for a record to be useful you actually have to use it! You will quickly stop using a record if it takes you too much time to fill out. Too many questions and difficult access are some things that will prevent you from using your forms to their maximum potential. Even forgetting to take records for a short time can ruin the effectiveness of the data collected.

A simple web form takes
5 seconds to fill out and only
collects data that I can use
In order to get the most out of your online forms I find it beneficial to try the following:

  • keep them short, too many questions takes too long
  • easily accessed, I have my forms embedded on a private web page that is formatted for mobile. Here is an post I did about my equipment use form
  • Accessible in the field, put the forms online if possible and accessible on your mobile phone or any of your staff's phones.I put a shortcut to this on my phone home page.
  • Only collect data that you will use, all the other stuff just takes long and clutters up your database.
  • Train your staff to use the forms, a form can standardize the added data making is easy to sort through it all. Use drop down lists for commonly used terms.
  • Standardize, don't use a bunch of different programs for records, find a good online spreadsheet program and stick with it, copying data from one medium to the other wastes time.
When I first started as a superintendent I really wanted to step up my record keeping. An example of a pest monitoring record in our local IPM manual was very thorough but would probably take 10 minutes to fill out! I tried to make this work but only filled out 1 report all year! It was hard to always keep all that paper handy and I often couldn't find my pencil. I was too busy with my small operation to take effective records. Now with smart phones and cloud based technology we can make dozens of observations every day in a fraction of the time!
While very thorough, this record takes too long to fill out and the
data isn't easily manipulated. You would have to hire an additional staff member
just to analyze this data!
Another advantage of using an online spreadsheet program combined with an online form is that you instantly have the data available to sort and compare. With the old paper method it would take a lot of work to make sense of any information useful. So when creating new forms for record keeping this year remember to keep the data relevant and simple. We aren't doing scientific research here, just organizing our observations in a way that we can use to analyze what actually happened out there.

I hope that these few tips have helped and if anyone has any questions always feel free to comment below or send me an email. I would love to help you make the most out of the awesome digital tools we now have available. 

Monday, 5 January 2015

My new approach to approaches is far

Clear pattern of disease on approaches Jan 5 2015
My approaches have always been hammered by fusarium during the cool, wet winter months. Last year I hypothesized that most of the damage caused by fusarium was a result of the mowers spreading the disease around and that we might be able to reduce this damage by using Primo in the winter. This winter I decided to try out iron and primo to try and reduce the severity of the fusarium on my approaches. As you can see from the above picture taken on Jan 5 2015, the plan appears to be workin. No other products have been applied to the approaches and traditional pesticides are never applied to the approaches except for minimal overlap from the greens applications.

Recent research has shown that at putting green height a rate of 97.65kg iron sulfate/ ha every 2 weeks provided almost complete control of fusarium during the winter. Because my approaches are cut at a much higher HOC I halved this rate for my approaches and have stretched the interval to 2 months. So far I have only made one application at 50kg iron sulfate/ha on Nov, 7, 2014. I plan to make another application this week if the ground thaws enough to get my sprayer out. Perhaps a monthly interval would work best in the future.

Typical infection in previous years
I also wanted to reduce the amount of mowing that the approaches required. I applied Primo Maxx on Nov 7th right after they were mowed for the last time in 2014. They currently still don't need a mowing although it would sure help to clean them up. As there is almost no golfer traffic this time of year I am not that concerned at how tidy the course looks.

A have also applied this same plan to my tees with similar results. The last time the tees were cut was Nov 1 2014 and the iron and primo was applied on Nov 4 2014. There is just now some fusarium starting to appear. Perhaps I stretched the application interval too far. I plan on making another iron and primo app to the tees in the next week as well. Hopefully it's not too late.

The total cost of this program has been about $25 for iron and $25 for the primo on approaches and green surrounds. The price for the tees is relatively the same. Not bad considering a fungicide application would easily cost 10x this.

Despite the cool wet weather I have never seen so little fusarium on my tees and approaches at this time of year. I hope that it is a result of the iron and Primo applications. Time will tell.

As for my greens......They aren't that bad but it has been a constant battle this winter. Maybe I should try some iron on them too? I need to bring back the good old check plot to get a better idea of what is really happening out there.